An Update On Charlie

The last few weeks have been pretty devastating because Charlie has not been well. Before I go into details, I want to be clear that he is doing OK, but he is officially a geriatric coyote.

A few weeks ago, his eating habits and demeanor changed drastically, and almost overnight. He got really picky about food and has been eating far less than usual. This time of year, he tends to eat a ton – anything and everything – in preparation for winter. His appetite dropped off and his preferences vary daily. Some days, he only eats raw liver. Some days, only raw eggs, Some days, only raw hamburger. Some days he’ll eat cooked hamburger and I can sneak in a healthy dose of my home-rendered tallow and super-concentrated bone broth. There were a few bad days where he wasn’t eating at all.

When this began, he stopped wanting to be pet and cuddled, and his posture and movements changed. He moved more slowly and stiffly. I interpreted all these signs as signs of pain—I just didn’t know what was causing the pain. I’ve been consulting with two vets and they suggested the three likely causes were cancer, organ failure, or joint issues/arthritis.

I chose not to run blood tests because of how stressful that would be on Charlie. I don’t know how to draw blood, so the vet (a stranger) would have to do it, and Charlie would have to be sedated for the blood draw. And if tests showed cancer or organ failure, there’s not much to be done in response. It just didn’t seem worth it. While organ failure can present with gradual symptoms in domestic dogs, my vet said that cats typically compensate until they go off the proverbial cliff and suspected the same might be true of wild canines, since this scenario matched Charlie’s signs—there was nothing gradual about the onset.

It was so sudden I wondered about poison or if it was a result of him eating a gigantic female carpenter bee. In early September, there was one in the house (these bees are huge – bigger than my thumb) and I was trying to catch it in a glass to move it outside. It kept flying away when I got close and then Charlie got in on the action, caught her in midair, and ate her. The females sting, but he showed no adverse reactions to eating the bee, and this took place almost two weeks before his decline, and he eats scorpions with no ill effect, so…?

And so we decided to treat for arthritis, since that could be done with pills hidden in food and with a low risk of side effects even if his malaise was not arthritis. But he had a horrible reaction to the first dose of prednisone. This is very unusual. He fell asleep immediately and was completely out of it for almost 24 hours (corresponding with the time it takes for the medication to metabolize out of his system). It seemed to make him really dizzy—the few times he did get up, he was very wobbly and off balance. Thankfully, that has resolved itself and I won’t be giving him more prednisone.

After observing and recording his signs and symptoms for the past few weeks, I do think it’s most likely a skeletal/joint issue in his hips or spine. Probably something that was developing over years unbeknownst to me and gradually enough for Charlie to completely compensate and hide it, and which finally “went out” one day.

He doesn’t act sick—his eyes are bright, he sings multiple times a day (other than the prednisone day), and he’s still very social and alert. He’s letting me pet him again. He’s lost weight but he’s eating enough. We’ve made changes to his environment to accommodate his decreased mobility, and I’ll be exploring gentle pain relief options.

I’ve decided to forego diagnostics for arthritis and invasive treatment—having x-rays and surgery would be far more stressful and painful for Charlie than whatever he is dealing with right now. X-rays would require total sedation; recuperating from surgery and wearing a cone would make him unfathomably miserable.

Every decision I make is with Charlie’s quality of life in mind. Quality of life and length of life do not always go hand in hand. This has been so incredibly hard….sometimes I feel really hopeful and sometimes I am a wreck. Your love and prayers are so appreciated—we both feel them, this I know is true! If you’ve cared for an arthritic dog and would like to share your experience/thoughts/tips, I’d love to hear. Shall I do a weekly Charlie update going forward?

one year ago: Gilded
two years ago: Kissable
three years ago: Little Coyote On The Prairie
four years ago: To The Moon And Back
five years ago: Crazy Love
six years ago: In Those Intervals
seven years ago: Defined
eight years ago: Soft Smile
nine years ago: Shock And Maw
ten years ago: Legs & Angles
eleven years ago: Uh Oh, Incoming….
twelve years ago: New Bling

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